AP U.S. Government and Politics

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Redesign Launching Fall 2018

As part of its ongoing process to make AP course and exam materials more effective for teachers and their students, the College Board released to educators a redesigned AP U.S. Government and Politics Curriculum Framework (.pdf/3.1MB). The redesigned course and exam will launch in the 2018-19 school year.

Dedicated teams of AP teachers and higher education faculty worked together on this framework for four years, gathering wide-ranging input and feedback from the public at-large and experts across the political spectrum. This collaboration is a central and indispensable part of the AP course and exam redesign process.

The result is a clear and balanced approach to the teaching of American government and politics, and an improved course and exam that will benefit teachers and their students.

The framework has earned the support of the National Constitution Center (.pdf/308K), a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that serves as America’s leading platform for constitutional education and debate. The College Board is partnering with the NCC to create a number of free online tools and resources to support teachers and their students.

Key Changes

The redesigned course and exam are explained in this presentation and, in even more detail, the curriculum framework.

Here are some of the key improvements:

  • More room for teachers to cultivate student understanding The topic outline for the current course will be replaced by a content outline: a focused, detailed description of content that may appear on the AP Exam. This will save teachers from rapid, superficial content coverage, enabling them to spend more time helping students understand key topics in depth.
  • More focus on what students should be able to do with the knowledge they develop The curriculum framework defines a set of political science skills and practices that will require students to analyze, compare, interpret, and communicate political information—the same skills and practices that college and university faculty expect students to have after completing the equivalent college course.
  • More emphasis on the U.S. founding documents and other primary sources A specified set of 19 Supreme Court cases and 9 foundational documents—including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution—will now be required study. For each required Supreme Court case, the National Constitution Center will publish articles for students showing both sides, where there was bipartisan agreement, and where there were differences.
  • More emphasis on applied learning Students will complete a research project or investigation relating a political problem or current issue to the course content.

To see the skills and practices, understand the components of the curriculum framework, and learn more about the required Supreme Court cases and foundational documents, watch this presentation and, for more detail, download the curriculum framework.

Redesigned Exam Format*

Section I: 70 multiple-choice questions (70 minutes)

  • Greater use of scenarios and stimulus material
  • Four, instead of five, possible responses (A, B, C, D)

Section II: Five free-response questions (100 minutes)

  • Two short answer concept application questions, one with a scenario and one without
  • One quantitative analysis and interpretation question with visual stimulus
  • One qualitative analysis and interpretation question with text and/or visual excerpts
  • One argumentation essay requiring supporting evidence and reasoning

Each section will count 50% toward the exam score.

* This is the proposed exam format. It will be piloted with representative schools in the spring of 2017. Any changes to this proposed design will be announced in the spring of 2018.

What’s Next?

Between now and the fall of 2018, teachers will get extensive information, resources, and professional development to get ready to teach the redesigned course, including:

  • The course and exam description, including the final curriculum framework and more information about the exam
  • Resources for the AP Course Audit,* including an example textbook list, sample syllabi, syllabus development guide, syllabus development tutorial, and planning and pacing information
  • A secure practice exam
  • AP Summer Institutes
  • In-person professional development
  • Free online resources from the National Constitution Center for students to study the Constitution and the required Supreme Court cases

*Details about what AP U.S. Government and Politics teachers will need to do to keep their AP Course Audit authorization will be provided in the fall of 2017, before the AP Course Audit begins for 2018-19.